The Catholic University of America

Dec. 1, 2014

From the
PRESIDENT'S DESK
 

Looking Back on the Semester, Looking Ahead to Christmas

It feels like it was just yesterday that we began the semester with the Mass of the Holy Spirit. But here we are at the end. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Last month I previewed my trip to Rome for the Humanum conference on the complementarity of man and woman sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In his opening remarks Pope Francis spoke of marriage as a “unique, natural, fundamental, and beautiful good.” Over the three days of the colloquium various speakers, such as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Anglican bishop N.T. Wright, and Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, presented their perspectives on this important topic.

While I was in Rome I visited our CUA center there; met with the director, David Dawson Vasquez; and took our students studying in Rome for an early Thanksgiving dinner. I also had lunch with students from Theological College and the John Paull II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family currently studying at the North American College.

Kurt Wiebusch (left) and Jerry Conrad (right) from the Office of Facilities Operations discuss the development of West Campus with President John Garvey.

Just before flying to Rome, I had the opportunity to observe the work under way on our West Campus. The property, which we bought from the nearby Armed Forces Retirement Home in 2004, is a lovely oasis of more than 40 acres in the middle of the city. It offers picturesque views of our main campus. In our 2012 master plan we set forth a vision to create a scenic drive to the campus from North Capitol Street through the West Campus, and a parking lot that will let us create more green space and reduce vehicle traffic on the main campus. Using remaining bond proceeds allocated to the West Campus, we have been able to begin clearing the land to make way for the future road. It’s only a first step in what will be a long process. Nevertheless, walking through this beautiful and expansive property, I had the sense that I was previewing the University’s bright future.

As we saw with the November shooting at Florida State University and assorted similar cases elsewhere that preceded it, universities today have to be ready to respond immediately to unforeseen emergencies. Until this month we have relied on Alert DC, a free notification service provided to us by the D.C. government. But we determined that a more nimble and multi-dimensional system was needed. So we have engaged with Rave Mobile Security, a company that is a provider of emergency notification systems for other universities, school districts, and businesses. We launched the new system, called CUAlert, on Nov. 17 and successfully tested it University-wide on Nov. 24. In addition to emails, it provides emergency notifications via text messaging and voice mail. It is good to have this enhanced tool in our possession.

I recently formed search committees for two key positions at the University. The Provost Search Committee is being chaired by Dean Andrew Abela of the School of Business and Economics. Other committee members include Steven Brown, associate dean and associate professor of mechanical engineering; Mark Murray, co-chief executive officer of Meijer Inc., member of the University’s Board of Trustees, and chair of its Audit Committee; Dean Will Rainford of the National Catholic School of Social Service; Michael Root, professor of systematic theology; undergraduate senior Ginamarie Shaffer; and Cathy Wood, vice president for finance and treasurer. I have also formed a search committee for the Vice President for Advancement. It will be chaired by Frank Persico, vice president for University relations and chief of staff. Other members include Dean Daniel Attridge of the Columbus School of Law; Cathy Wood; Joseph Carlini, a member of the Board of Trustees and chair of its Development Committee; and John Fogarty, an alumnus and vice president for development at the Heritage Foundation. I hope that both committees will make substantial progress over the next few months.

Last year's annual Christmas Concert for Charity

Although the semester is quickly coming to a close, we still have several wonderful events planned before the break. This year is the 25th anniversary of our annual Christmas Concert for Charity, a joint production of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Choir. It is a wonderful tradition that ushers in our Christmas season and a sign of the close and enduring collaboration of our two institutions. If you’ve never been to the concert, I urge you to attend this year’s performance on Friday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. If you do, come early to get a good seat. The Great Upper Church fills up for the occasion. Before the concert, join us in the Pryzbyla Center atrium for the annual tree lighting and Greccio at 5 p.m.

Ballet lovers will be interested to learn that our newly refurbished Hartke Theatre will be the venue for Dec. 5–9 performances of The Nutcracker by the National Ballet.

Dec. 5 will usher in a third important cultural event. A landmark exhibit — Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea — opens that day at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It will feature more than 60 works of art by famous Renaissance and Baroque artists dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are partnering with the museum to provide auxiliary programming that cuts across academic disciplines and will continue throughout the spring semester. An example of that partnership will be the Jan. 16 presentation at the museum by Father Stefanos Alexopoulos, assistant professor of liturgical studies and sacramental theology, on Marian imagery.

Since the next issue of Inside CUA doesn’t come out until Feb. 2, I want to call to your attention another significant cultural event in early January. The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music will kick off its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration with a Jan. 12 performance (7:30 p.m.) by the National Symphony Orchestra in Hartke Theatre. It is a great coup for the school and the University to play host to the NSO. Better still, the program, sponsored as part of the “NSO in Your Neighborhood” series, is free and open to the public. However, tickets will be required. The music school is to be commended for its extensive lineup of celebratory events to mark its golden anniversary. I hope many of you will take advantage of these cultural opportunities.

I am very sorry to report that Robert Craves, an alumnus, University trustee emeritus, former chair of the Board of Trustees’ Development Committee, and generous supporter of the University, died on Nov. 5. Bob was a great advocate for equal access to higher education. He co-founded the College Success Foundation to provide college scholarships to low-income, high-potential students. Many Catholic University students have benefited from scholarship support provided by Bob and his wife, Gerri. We were pleased to name the Craves Family Alumni Center in their honor. Please join me in praying for the repose of his soul and the consolation of the Craves family.

President John Garvey and Very Rev. Mark Morozowich, interim provost, with award winning faculty (from left) Ann Corsi, David Bosworth, and Patricia Andrasik.

I would like to congratulate several members of the University community for recent outstanding achievements. At the end of October we recognized three faculty members for teaching excellence. David Bosworth, associate professor in the School of Theology and Religious Studies, received the Teaching Excellence in Early Career Award. Patricia Andrasik, assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Planning, received the Advancement in Teaching Award for her creative and innovative contributions to teaching. And Ann Corsi, associate professor in the Department of Biology, was honored for Overall Teaching Excellence for at Least Ten Years. On Nov. 11, Brian Engelland, associate dean and professor of marketing in the School of Business and Economics, was named the Edward J. Pryzbyla Chair of Business and Economics. Mr. Pryzbyla, whose generosity to his alma mater can be seen across the campus, endowed the chair in 2002. Professor Engelland is the first person to hold it.

Congratulations are also in order for our student athletes. Our men’s and women’s soccer teams both won Landmark Conference championships in November. Both teams went to the NCAA Tournament and won their first-ever NCAA Tournament games. Our field hockey team also went to the NCAA Tournament, and for the second consecutive year advanced to the Elite Eight. Congratulations to all of the players on a great season.

The end of the semester is always a busy time for the University community. There are term papers and finals to write and to grade. But I hope you will make time to prepare yourself for Christmas. One of my favorite Advent hymns directs us to “make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table. People look east and sing today: Love, the guest, is on the way.” Advent is the perfect time to do a little “spiritual housekeeping,” to prepare our hearts to welcome Christ.

I wish you all a very blessed and joyful Christmas.